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was Elizabeth’s first time at the Tearfund feeding centre in Maar, South Sudan,
when I met her. A 30-year-old mother with five children, she came because she
had heard of other mothers in her village bringing their children here. On this
particular day, Elizabeth was deeply concerned for her youngest child’s health –
but she was also hopeful.
me that trying to look after her children is difficult, particularly finding
food for her 10-month-old daughter. ‘Sometimes if my child is sick, and we can’t
find any food, that defeats me. The children drink the milk from cows, but there
is not enough. This is the challenge.’
poor substitute In South Sudan it is common for mothers to feed
their infants with cow's milk, as many fear they don’t have enough breast milk.
However, babies can’t digest cow’s milk as easily as their mothers’ milk, and
the cow's milk is often mixed with contaminated water, causing babies to get
sick and malnourished.
Bégin, UNICEF’s Senior Nutrition Adviser, states that ‘If all babies are fed
nothing but breast milk from the moment they are born until they are six months
old, over 800,000 lives would be saved every year.’ According to data from
UNICEF, babies who receive no breast milk at all in these kinds of contexts are
seven times more likely to die from infections than those who receive at least
some in their first six months of life.
crucial intervention At the feeding centre in Maar, Tearfund staff
share knowledge and information like this with mothers, as well as assisting
with their basic needs and those of their children. Severely malnourished people
are treated each week, and fortnightly clinics are arranged for those who are
moderately malnourished, as well as pregnant and lactating women and children
under five. The treatment programme usually lasts for about 60 days.
children are given packets of peanut paste called plumpy’nut, and pregnant and
lactating mothers are given a blend of maize and soya fortified with other
nutrients to make a porridge. The children’s height and weight are used to
assess their nutritional status, determine the correct portion of plumpy’nut and
ascertain when the child is ready to be discharged from treatment.
Garang, a Tearfund Nutrition Extension Worker in Maar, tells us the overall
feeling at the centre is a positive one: ‘The people here are not sad, because
the programme that Tearfund has brought in has changed lives. Especially with
malnutrition, people are responding well to the
A return to health ‘Today,
we have discharged so many children who have recovered from malnutrition. I’m
happy that we can show that the children in the programme are responding to
‘I'm feeling happy because we are doing some good here,’
great impact Approximately 80-90% of the malnourished children are
discharged as cured at the end of the 60-day programme. David is understandably
encouraged by this. ‘The mothers feel very happy when their children have been
discharged, because the programme is understood and the community is involved in
this programme,’ he says.
addressing malnutrition and saving lives, but we’re also equipping mothers and
communities to prevent it from happening in the first place,’ says Josie Smith,
Tearfund’s Programme Coordinator for the East Africa Crisis. ‘We do this through
teaching infant feeding practices, providing advice on good hygiene and
sanitation, and ensuring communities have clean water sources that are
sustainably managed. With ongoing funding, Tearfund will be able to continue
working among vulnerable communities in South Sudan.
this, I can understand how Elizabeth and others like her can find hope despite
the many challenges. Let’s praise God and pray for this vital work.
continue to pray for families, like Elizabeth’s, who are suffering as a result
of the current drought and struggling for food just to survive.
all the staff and volunteers working at the feeding centres, that they would be
able to provide food for those who are in desperate need.
for the generosity of our supporters and for the commitment of Tearfund staff
and partners as they work hard to help those most in
amazing that a simple peanut paste can turn around a child's health. We're so
thankful that mothers like Elizabeth are receiving this life-saving care for
their little ones. Please pray with us that our partners can reach many
Horton Programme Support and Communications Officer, East and